Mike and Krys Cook raise some beautiful heritage hogs, including Berskhires and Red Wattles, Large Blacks and Durocs. They’ve got nearly 500 of them living happy hog lives out their ranch in Julian where, as they’re known to do, they pig out on nearly 2,000 pounds of food every day.
To help supplement all that feed, the farmers head to Aztec Brewing Company in Vista once a week to pick up two to four tons of what’s known in the industry as “spent grain.” It’s the byproduct of the beer-making process, after the mash does the work of extracting the sugars and other nutrients required to get the fermentation process started, eventually transforming it into that nectar we know you all love: beer.
Once the grains leave the mash, they no longer have any value to the brewery, but they’re highly coveted by farmers like the Cooks, who say the wet mixture makes a healthy and valuable feed supplement for cows, pigs and other livestock. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship that brewers and farmers have had for literally centuries. But a proposed FDA rule may change all that.
Under the Food Safety Modernization Act, the FDA is taking a closer look at manufacturing processes when it comes to animal feed.
The FDA says the proposed rule is meant to address good manufacturing practices when it comes to food for animals, but it calls out beer-makers specifically: “FDA understands that many breweries and distilleries sell spent grains, such as brewers dried grains and distillers dried grains, as animal food. Because those spent grains are not alcoholic beverages themselves, and they are not in a prepackaged form that prevents any direct human contact with the food … the proposed rule would apply to them,” according to this FDA document.
The proposed changes could mean brewers will be required to alter their processes, testing requirements and add additional record-keeping. They also worry that they’ll be required to dry and package any spent grains before they reach a farm animal’s lips — a process most brewers believe is too prohibitive for a product that is already safe. Even the FDA has said it’s unaware of any specific contamination events resulting from spent grains sourced from the brewing industry.
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Incredible! While I do support some intelligent regulation, this is regulation going absurdly wild!(Can we please regulate and stop this proposed, inane regulation?)
As a youngster growing up in Iowa, (before I became a fighter pilot) I raised hogs. Show hogs. We fed them what was called ‘slop’ – unregulated, but a combined mixture of healthy feed both they and we loved. My hogs and beef won awards for being the best in our county.
(Interestingly, the county’s top award-winning steers were fed, god forbid, 'unregulated beer' – a prohibitively expensive feed that nevertheless produced the top prime beef for our nation’s finest restaurants.)
Unfortunately we didn’t have breweries or “spent grain” available in Iowa. However I cannot think of a much more efficient, fine feed for our swine. In this age of recycling, what better win-win for all is there? And as anyone who has brewed beer knows, sanitary conditions throughout the process are paramount. So the spent grain is far better/safer than normal hog feed.
I don’t know if our regional elected politicians know a boar or barrow from a gilt, but they need to get on this. And people need to let their representatives know what stupidity this could be.
Final rules are due in August 2015 so there is time for this to be worked on.
Here is what the dairy farmers submitted in response...........they want a brewery exemption
Thanks for writing about this. With all the new breweries coming on and all the spent grain that is created everyday-- are they going to form a spent grain posse? O_o
Sharing spent grains with farmers helps continue a natural cycle of life. Sending tons of spent grain to the already overflowing landfills is a very poor solution. The FDA could better spend their time investigating existing pet food supply companies that sell contaminated products that sicken and kill our pets. Have a study, set guidelines like a time period that the grains have to be transferred from brewery to farm, but don't burden two already heavily regulated industries with more costs. Is there a study that shows this is a necessary solution? Or is it a situation where it ain't broke, don't "fix it".
Claudia from Aztec Brewing Company - a proud donator of tons of spent grain that helps feed the wonderful pigs at Cooks Pigs farm in Julian.